UK dairy farmer protests over milk prices could continue, despite processors last week reversing plans to cut prices this week.
Arla Foods, Robert Wiseman Dairies and First Milk withdrew plans to lower the price they pay farmers after days of protests. Dairy Crest has suspended its plans for two months.
However, Farmers for Action chairman David Handley told just-food today (31 July) more protests were possible as milk producers look to claw back cuts made in May.
“We’ve still got a problem in that nobody yet has come up with the money that was taken away in May and June,” Handley said.
Farmers, he explained, are now in the “second phase” of action to reach a resolution. “The first part was to get the threatened price cuts rescinded. We’ve achieved that, now we’re back at the drawing board again with the retailers, processors, middle-ground, the foodservice industry, to try and find where that 1.5ppl went in May/June, because it’s imperative that we get that money back. Without that money back we’ve not finished our job yet.”
Handley said Farmers for Action intends to “isolate the individuals that we think are responsible”.
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He said: The big four [retailers] are not out of the woods by a long way. They’ve got to prove in independent auditing that they did not have any of that money in May. If they can prove that then we focus back again on the processors and they’ve got to tell us who had it. Somebody had it … and it’s going to mean more protests.”
Handley said foodservice companies could also be the target of protests this week. “You’ll see protest action again by the end of the week. We’ve got talks going on all the time with various people and if that doesn’t materialise in any way, I would think by tomorrow, Thursday Friday, I can see farmers being outside of different premises.”
The National Farmers Union (NFU), meanwhile, welcomed moves by dairies to reverse the planned price cuts from 1 August. However, it warned “the [farming] coalition’s fight to deliver a more sustainable future for British dairying goes on”.
Retailers including Asda, Morrisons and The Co-operative Group have increased the premiums they pay for milk in the face of protests. NFU president Peter Kendall yesterday called on discount retailers Iceland Foods and Farmfoods to up their prices.
“There has been some fantastic work by a number of organisations and individuals on this issue in the past two weeks but we can’t – and won’t – take our eye off the ball. We are calling for the retailers Iceland and Farmfoods to ensure they start to pay a price to their milk suppliers that covers the cost of production.”
A spokesperson for the NFU told just-food it is still waiting for a decision from Iceland.